stage director

Diary of a Madman

Minsk theatrical spaces

The capital of Belarusian theatre

In Minsk there are about fifteen theatres – more than in any other Belarusian city. Still, some of them are being renovated and their spectacles are either performed on other stages or have been  cancelled.  What is more, some theatre teams do not have their own stage at all, they are condemned to wander around from one place to another occasionally disappearing to appear again before their audience. 

(…) Considering the biggest drama theaters – the Academic Theater named after Janka Kupała and the Academic Drama Theater named after Gorky bear the status of national theatres.  Both of them present their spectacles on two stages: the grand stage and the small one. It is also the Republican Theatre of Belarusian Drama and the Republican Theatre for Young Audience that can also pride themselves on two stages. The spectacles are in Belarusian and Russian languages.  Some theatres (e.g. the Academic Theater named after Janka Kupała, the Republican Theatre of Belarusian Drama, “Znicz”) perform only in Belarusian language, the others (the Drama Theater named after Gorky, the Youth Theatre, the Theatre – Studio of Film Actor) produce their spectacles in Russian, the audience can also find theaters performing in both languages: the Republican Theatre for Young Audience or the National Puppet Theatre.  

… Kupałowski Theatre (this short name referrs to the Academic Theater named after Janka Kupała founded in 1920 which makes it the oldest theater in Belarus) and the Puppet Theatre belong to the best Minsk theatres. 

Eric XIV and the Diary of the Madman

… Something like one year ago Anatolij Kot and Monika Dobrowlańska  presented their one-actor-performance called “Diary of the Madman” by Gogol on stage of the Theatre – Studio of Film Actor.  Gogol’s main character – Popriščin, a titular councilor, – was shown as an emigrant from Eastern Europe, a minor official working in one of Berlin offices.  Popriščin studies German, works using modern office equipment and dreams to move up the career ladder in future.  He does his best to organize his work.  He observes his superior with caution, slightly secretly, and watches the backs of the books placed on the shelves with due care and attention.   He even dares to glance admirably at the director’s daughter.  Still, very soon a funny event completely changes the character’s life. He accidentally overhears the talk of two dogs, one of which belongs to the director’s daughter and steals their letters.  The dog correspondence makes his eyes open wide.  It turns out that the director’s daughter is in  love with somebody else, what is more, her whole family just keeps on mocking at Popriščin. From now on Popriščin begins to change himself.  He fantasizes to be the king of Spain. He makes himself lose his common sense step by step. In mental asylum his suffering consciousness begins, more and more persistently,  to whisper him words in his native language  Popriščin suffers recalling his mother and native country. In his prayers, directed nowhere, he asks for the salvation of his lost soul.

A great role of Anatolij Kot. We watch a tiny official pressing the computer buttons and reading the dog correspondence. The actor plays close to the audience which makes is possible to watch his facial expression with details.  In the last scenes the audience can see real madness in his eyes.  

Tatiana Karaliova

In: Didaskalia


Diary of a Madman

www.mixtura.ru, 04.02.2005

During the day Anatolij Kot was walking between stalls in the Actors Theater, where he practiced the translation of Gogol’s “Diary of a madman”. The actor seemed ill and asked not to have any photos taken during the performance so as the camera clicks did not disturb him.

In the evening the whole Minsk audience (say: whole theatrical Minsk) gathered in front of the Moscow cinema doors. The personnel of the German Embassy entered the theater separately. Not even a single seat was free. The performance title was shown. Navy blue German subtitles with Popriščin’s monologue were displayed simultaneously on a huge screen. It made it really difficult to follow what was happening on stage. Still,  five minutes after the beginning the audience did not have to read the subtitles displayed any more – the actors played in a way which made translation useless. Following the idea of the director Monika Dobrowlańska, the Russian madman turned into an eastern European immigrant who has got sunk deeply into the western society and has lost his mind having in the background the monotonous noises made by a copying machine.

Monika Dobrowlańska did not limit herself to the enormous title. The stage design is abundant in postmodernist gestures: shortly Popriščin can watch himself “from other perspective” on the screen, shortly breathtaking video photos show singing and begging girls, next, the whole set of photos presenting urban craziness of the Moscow tube flashes by. This film modules have raised the stage design to an supranational level: St Petersburg by Gogol disappeares, Dobrowlańska’s Berlin gets dissolved into thin air – action gathers momentum.

The final scene, with Popriščin, crushed by the pendulum of the understanding of his insanity, suddenly turns into the Russian language,  the remnants of inner resistance, still existing in some cynic spectators, disappear.

Stage design of “Diary of a madman” is a sophisticated, improvisation project by Monika Dobrowlańska and Anatolij Kot. It is too early to state if it will be possible to show  “Diary of a Madman” on Minsk stage. The performance was shown three times only, in TACHELES, the famous Centre of Culture, in the Schauspieler-Theater and thirdly on Witebsk stage.


Berlin Gogol

Belorusskaja Gaseta, 07.02.05

 THEATER with Andrej KUREJTSCHIK

 Theater: Filmschauspieler-Studiotheater, Projekt by Anatolij Kot and Monika Dobrowlanska (Berlin)

 Staging: Nikolai Gogol, „Diary of a Madman“

 Direction: Monika Dobrowlanska

What’s this? Manfred Linke, a famous German critic, the head of European Forum of Young Theatre Workers, wrote about a sensational performance on Berlin stage, the performance which we owe to a Belarusian actor, a performance which seemed to be fantasy. Berlin, the Mecca of the European theatres, the unconquered citadel and  city which concentrates the theatres with the most avant-garde and finest repertoires (which could happen either in London or New York), the theatrical place which can pride itself on the most demanding audience and the severest critics. And it was here that a German director of Polish origin, decided to turn a Russian classical short story by Nikolai Gogol into a spectacle.

As usual, the Belarusians have first taken no notice of their compatriots’ unprecedented achievement and, unlike other European countries, it was the Goethe-Institute rather than native Belarusian Culture Institutions, that cared about the promotion of a spectacle in which the actor, Kot starred. The Goethe-Institute made an unsuccessful attempt to invite „Diary of a Madman“ to “Panorama-Festival”. Still, The Ministry of Culture found the spectacle unwelcomed on Festival Program. In the end, officials put some mercy before justice and gave their permission to show „Diary of a Madman“ on  Filmschauspieler-Theater  stage as well as in Witebsk.

Dramaturgy.  Die short story „Diary of a Madman“ could be equally the first real journey to the depth of a suffering psyche in the world literature, a journey reported in the first person narrative. While depicting his character’s schizophrenic illusion Gogol is so adequate, precise and truthful that future psychiatrists could take lessons based on his descriptions.

What makes the whole story even more interesting is the fact that Gogol did not write about an abstract madness, in a very convincing way Gogol presented megalomania whose elements as well as people suffering from it are so visible in everyday life. We consider Gogol to be a classical author whose language reflects the 19th century poetic form. Still, in German translations Gogol is a contemporary artist who tells his present story about a  Russian immigrant who has lost his mind in a German office.

Direction: Monika Dobrowlanska is already well-known to the Minsk audience. Her small production by Pawel Prjaschko’s work presented as a part of on-line project was assessed to be the best one. The director chose the same time for the „Diary of a Madman“ action as Gogol himself  i.e. April 2000. The action takes place in Germany. The main character is a Russian immigrant who, slowly but definitely,  loses his mind because of absolute bureaucracy. A mean, small official, who perceives himself to be the King of Spain, who is completely soaked with his crazy fantasies about being great and magnificent, reveals a generalized stereotype embodying a dictator.  The quest for power,  the certainty related to being the chosen one, categorical statements to any questions related to domestic or foreign politics, boorishness and selfishness – these forms of megalomania are described by Gogol.

Exactly this part of the performance stroke a chord with the Belarusian audience. Even though the director and the actors managed to avoid too direct political contexts, the effect of recognition was obvious. In this sense the German language with its expression and rough native nature contributes to making this effect. The performance gained an unusual intonation due to the huge video projection: the subtitles of Gogol’s text, next the photos of today’s Moscow, even the monologues spoken by Kot himself were displayed in the background.

Advantages: Today Anatolij Kot is probably the only actor in this country able to play a great one-actor-production. He knows how to change himself in a masterful manner,  how to manage the pace and rhythm, how to move and joke. In an outstanding way he can “sense” the audience, his self-image can change from good-natured and charming to brutal and demonic. What results is a wonderful cocktail – the German sense of presence and current matters multiplied by Gogol’s mystic and Slavic art of acting.

Disadvantages.  The play could be presented in future, and needless to say, there should be more performances than one only. Still the German roughness can hardly meet the requirements of the supporters of classical theatre interpretation.

 

 


Craziness as the way to reach the state of consciousness

Nastaunitzkaja Haseta , 17.02.2005, S.4

Minsk presented „Diary of a madman“ by N.W.Gogol  on its stage

 The subject brought up by Gogol in his „Diary of a Madman” is very fashionable. Today only few theaters are not interested in it.  A director, Monika Dobrowlańska paid  tribute to Russian classical literature  on stage of  Minsk Filmschauspieler-Studiotheater, she invited  Anatolij Kot, a Belarusian actor, to appear in  her  one-actor performance. The actor’s task was not limited  to  present  a Russian immigrant in Berlin, it was much more complex, he should act  a  lonely man surrounded by crowds of people. During his recent  interview given for “Lad” TV station,  W. Stjopkin, the director of Philosophy Institute at Russian Science University, mentioned that the today’s  mankind has  fallen into an anthropogenic crisis. The crisis refers to  the fact that currently  the process of people loss, in any  sense this expression  alludes to, proceeds. This phenomenon  was  shown in  the new theatre production.

Paradoxically, the process of getting into madness refers to the process of making Popriščin conscious and  humane. “During this process he subjectively gets out of seemingly hopeless situations of being non-human” says the performance program. Even though it is said, it is not explained how to act such a role, and what is more, how to act it in an up-to-date manner? The performance director and the author Monika Dobrowlańska made a rough, precisely structured performance in the European style; her performance consists of individual structural items, modules, where the process of common sense loss is examined long and thoroughly  until it reaches the peak when Popriščin, being in love with the general’s daughter, imagines himself being the king of Spain. His magnificent golden king’s robe made of golden plastic foil drags along the whole stage as if a tail, it rustles gently and turns into an Alaska jacket. The loss of common sense occurs in an office packed with pieces of furniture. The main character  paces busily between two tables, on one of which there is a computer, a window, door and a huge cinema screen. It is interesting to observe how originally Monika Dobrowlańska takes advantage of double space on stage. On one hand tiny, miserable Popriščin, forced into the corner, on the other the one-dimensional megacity community, resembling ant communities,  where everybody is in a hurry, where people pass next to each other and begin to exist independently from each other, and in the same time on the video screen the audience can see the crowded Moscow tube. The drama of an individual, called Popriščin, unnoticed and unknown,  becomes a tragedy of today’s man who is completely lost even though being with other people, a tragedy of an imprisoned inhabitant of a deserted island. People get surprised at the thought that today one does not look in his interlocutor’s eyes any more, that one cannot sense the soul, that one does not have any feelings for person’s suffering. Then  Popriščin, who presents himself on stage in such an expressive and ambitious manner, appears, quite surprisingly, on the videos screen, on the level of character’s inner world, with his eyes full of  tears which have not been cried out yet. At the end of the production instead of Moscow tube photos made by an amateur, the audience can see the photo of actors, he camera approaches it closer and closer so as to see its close-up…

The production is bilingual, which by no means introduces any disruption to the stylistics of the double action. Subtitles presenting the Gogol’s  texts are shown on the screen, simultaneously the monologue is made in German. Shortly before his final monologue the Popriščin’s face reflects the signs of a tired Russian man. And it is in the Russian language that he asks his mother to console him, to let him cling to her breast and to shed tears over him.

By no means was the Belarusian actor inhibited while mastering the moment of becoming conscious; he was laid-back and sensitive, in this scene his character opens his heart before witnesses, before the audience. Within half an hour Anatol Kot changes himself several times, he lets his character to “reopen” his soul again and again – just like in the Internet one website is open one after another. He keeps the time: first he lulls his audience slowly so as he could shake them up later using true and strong feelings.

Tatjana Kotowitsch

Theatre critic


Minsk theatrical spaces

Tatiana KaraliovaMinsk theatrical spaces

The capital of Belarusian theatre

In Minsk there are about fifteen theatres – more than in any other Belarusian city. Still, some of them are being renovated and their spectacles are either performed on other stages or have been  cancelled.  What is more, some theatre teams do not have their own stage at all, they are condemned to wander around from one place to another occasionally disappearing to appear again before their audience.

Considering the biggest drama theaters – the Academic Theater named after Janka Kupała and the Academic Drama Theater named after Gorky bear the status of national theatres.  Both of them present their spectacles on two stages: the grand stage and the small one. It is also the Republican Theatre of Belarusian Drama and the Republican Theatre for Young Audience that can also pride themselves on two stages. The spectacles are in Belarusian and Russian languages.  Some theatres (e.g. the Academic Theater named after Janka Kupała, the Republican Theatre of Belarusian Drama, “Znicz”) perform only in Belarusian language, the others (the Drama Theater named after Gorky, the Youth Theatre, the Theatre – Studio of Film Actor) produce their spectacles in Russian, the audience can also find theaters performing in both languages: the Republican Theatre for Young Audience or the National Puppet Theatre.

… Kupałowski Theatre (this short name referrs to the Academic Theater named after Janka Kupała founded in 1920 which makes it the oldest theater in Belarus) and the Puppet Theatre belong to the best Minsk theatres.

Eric XIV and the Diary of the Madman

… Something like one year ago Anatolij Kot and Monika Dobrowlańska  presented their one-actor-performance called “Diary of the Madman” by Gogol on stage of the Theatre – Studio of Film Actor.  Gogol’s main character – Popriščin, a titular councilor, – was shown as an emigrant from Eastern Europe, a minor official working in one of Berlin offices.  Popriščin studies German, works using modern office equipment and dreams to move up the career ladder in future.  He does his best to organize his work.  He observes his superior with caution, slightly secretly, and watches the backs of the books placed on the shelves with due care and attention.   He even dares to glance admirably at the director’s daughter.  Still, very soon a funny event completely changes the character’s life. He accidentally overhears the talk of two dogs, one of which belongs to the director’s daughter and steals their letters.  The dog correspondence makes his eyes open wide.  It turns out that the director’s daughter is in  love with somebody else, what is more, her whole family just keeps on mocking at Popriščin. From now on Popriščin begins to change himself.  He fantasizes to be the king of Spain. He makes himself lose his common sense step by step. In mental asylum his suffering consciousness begins, more and more persistently, to whisper him words in his native language  Popriščin suffers recalling his mother and native country. In his prayers, directed nowhere, he asks for the salvation of his lost soul.

A great role of Anatolij Kot. We watch a tiny official pressing the computer buttons and reading the dog correspondence. The actor plays close to the audience which makes is possible to watch his facial expression with details.  In the last scenes the audience can see real madness in his eyes.